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Post-War Militarisation And Tourism In NE Endanger Women And Teens

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(March 18, 2014, Bradford-UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) A child teetering on the brink between childhood and puberty, bereft of a father disappeared is taken into ‘care’ separated from her mother, a vociferous human rights advocate. How tragic. There should be no dry eye left when one sees the anguish on the face of the child in the photograph posted on several websites. If this photograph does not move one, then one is not human.

This is what war, racism and separatism brings on to our future generation. This child whose mother was taken away forcefully and incarcerated at TID in Colombo on the pretext she was harbouring a wanted LTTE cadre would grow up to trust no-one since those who protected her have been taken away from her and is living in hope that one day she would be reunited with her missing father who surrendered to the army.

Tamil women threw themselves at UK premier David Cameron flashing photographs, braving security and surrendering their dignity hoping he would somehow wave his magic wand and bring back their missing family members.

In another less publicised news in Lankasri, of the 103 rehabilitated women inducted into the military, some 22 had visited Kilinochchi Hospital and asked to be provided with contraceptives since while they are being paid adequately they are unable to defend themselves against officers forcing them into having sexual intercourse. They admitted they joined the military due to sheer poverty but they did not envisage such sexual harassment and intimidation.

One simple poser to the soldiers is what if any one of these women is either your sister or daughter.

My brother who went to Jaffna recently told me he saw teenage girls with distended bellies as young as 13 looking forlorn and eyes staring into empty space. With fathers missing or killed in the war and brothers having fled to foreign shores seeking asylum they have become cannon-fodders for lusty brutes including their trusted male relatives.

Young boys whose relatives send remittances from abroad working in super markets, restaurants and factories 24/7 are seen in un-inhabited houses snorting drugs and engaging in illicit sex, according to eye-witnesses and media reports.

The fall-out of the war is reflected in the Tamil diaspora here in the UK. Whereas I undertook interpreting for immigration clients I am now called upon by Social Services who have taken children into care and divorce solicitors. Families are disintegrating at an alarming rate and suicide is on the rise among Tamil refugees.

The most repulsive transcription I had to make was that of a secretly taped conversation between two married lovers by the man. The conversation while obviously under the influence of alcohol was pure pornography and was produced in court as evidence to gain parental rights to their illegitimate child who was witness to this horrendous drama!!!

Go to any off-license in Harrow, Wembley or Southall in Greater London and you will see married women selling liquor while the husbands are attending to other business ventures. Then you will see the same women worshipping at temples on Fridays and Tuesdays modestly dressed in sarees and arms and necks tied with poonools (holy thread Hindus obtain from priests).

Whereas back home, at least in my younger days, girls who attained puberty were not allowed out to go to the shops and taverns were certainly out of bounds.

Sri Lankan dusky damsels are openly advertised in local newspapers offering massage and other services. Why are the Tamil diaspora who valiantly contest war crimes do not address the destruction at their door-step; their own women who are exposing themselves to the danger of sexual proclivities and the ensuing family disintegration.

Teenagers among the diaspora spend far more time in front of TV absorbing private channel movies 24/7 at an average cost of £100.00 per annum rather than assimilate with other cultures and integrate into their countries of adoption to improve their knowledge and learn new skills such as learning the languages in their adopted countries. The curtains in most houses are drawn even in daylight to enable uninterrupted television viewing.

Post-war, the government is opening war zones to tourism bringing in entrepreneurs from South and abroad thereby encouraging gambling, drugs and prostitution and soon the country’s North and East alone will overtake Thailand not as a simple tourist destination but as sex paradise.

Sri Lanka is not alone in women being exploited to satisfy war-weary soldiers. It took over 60 years for Japan to admit it used Korean ‘comfort women’ to appease its soldiers’ morale through sexual gratification.

Undoubtedly sex is a powerful urge for women during reproductive years but forced sex would leave bitter scars and revulsion and cause irreparable psychological damage for the rest of their lives.

It is not just the soldiers who exploit our women. It is also incumbent on our religious and civic leaders to ensure that women learn to protect themselves and conduct themselves becoming of their tradition and norms.

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)

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